Up, Up, Up: $2k More Seed Funding for Projects that Matter

Getting a project off the ground often means an up-front investment in parts. Hackaday is upping our efforts to smooth out that obstacle for those who want to Build Something That Matters. Seed funding for the 2017 Hackaday Prize is simple, enter your design plans, share it far and wide so that a lot of people will show their admiration with a ‘like’ on the project page. You get a dollar for each like to help jump-start the build phase.

This year has started off like a rocket. Last week we passed the $4000 seed funding limit even though there’s still two weeks left in the Design Your Concept round. We’re raising the pot to a total of $6000. That means there’s more up for grabs. Enter your project now. If you’ve already done that, polish up your presentation and show it around to your friends and on social media. You’ll get a dollar for every like up to $200 max, or until we undoubtedly reach the new limit once again. Don’t delay, it’s time to Build Something that Matters!

Organizers of World Create Day are Getting Something Special

World Create Day is this Saturday, and events are being organized all over the world. Anyone can set one of these up, and it’s not too late for you to have one in your own town — just fill out this form to become a host.

We’re sending swag out for everyone that gets together and hacks on World Create Day, things like stickers and a few other goodies. This year we’ve decided on a special thank you to the local organizers. Check out the mockups for these T-shirts. Our Art Director, Joe Kim, has created something truly amazing with this year’s images. You can only get one if you are the meetup organizer and you post pictures and a bit of back story about your World Create Day experience on your event page.

If you’ve been on the fence about being a host, take the leap and give it a try! It’s great fun to get together with other Hackaday folks in real life, and you’ll get this super-rare Hackaday shirt out of it.

PassivDom: Mobile Homes for Millenials

In many parts of the world, living in a trailer has gained a social stigma. We’re talking about a rectangular building placed on three wheels and towed to your preferred plot of land. It’s going to take a lot to break that social stigma, but this is a pretty sweet attempt.

PassivDom is an off-grid home. It sidesteps the electrical grid as well as water and sewer service. It’s marketed as utilizing revolutionary breakthrough in wall insulation which they claim makes it very easy to heat and cool. In addition to this self-sustaining angle, it taps into the tiny home movement with a footprint of just 36 m2 (4 m by 9 m; about 118 390 ft2 or 13′ by 30′).

For this to make sense you really need to get the “Autonomous” model, the only one that is designed for “off-grid” living and comes with solar panels and battery storage plus water storage and purification. That’ll set you back 59,900 € (about $63,461 USD) but hey, it does come with “high quality minimalistic furniture” which the best way we can think of to serve Ikea nesting instinct without saying the brand name. Yep, this ticks all the “marketing to millennials” boxes. We’re kind of surprised it’s not doing crowdfunding.

So where’s the hack? Obviously this is a hard sell at 1,664 €/m($538 $163/ft2). A project of this size and scope is well within the purview of a single, motivated hacker, and arguably a weekend project for a well-skilled team from a hackerspace. Tiny Houses started as a build-it yourself so that’s already solved. We’ve seen what it takes for hackers to add solar to their RVs, and experiments in home-built power walls. Water storage and purification is already solved and quite affordable at the home store.

Has anyone built their own off-grid tiny house? If so, let us know what went into it. If not, what are you waiting for?

Ask Hackaday: How Do You Python?

Python is the Arduino of software projects. It has a critical mass of libraries for anything from facial recognition and neural networks to robotics and remote sensing. And just like Arduino, I have yet to find the killer IDE for Python. Perhaps I just haven’t tried the right one yet, but it could be that I’m just doing Python wrong.

For Years I’ve Been IDLE

IDLE with interactive shell that has highlighting and code completion

I’m a Linux-only type of a guy so using IDLE for Python is a natural fit. It’s in the repositories for super quick and easy install and there’s basically zero configuration to be done. Generally speaking my preferred development environment is text editor and command line compiler. IDLE is just one step above that. You get a separate window for the shell and each Python file you’re working on. Have IDLE run your code and it saves the file, then launches it in the shell window.

For me, there are two important features of IDLE’s shell. The first is that it keeps an interactive session open after you run your Python code. This means that any globals that your script uses are still available, and that you can experiment with your code by calling functions (and classes, etc) in real time. The second desirable feature is that while using this interactive shell, IDLE supports code completion and docstring support (it gives you hints for what parameters a function accepts/requires).

But simplicity has a tough time scaling. I’m working on larger and larger projects spread over many files and the individual nature of IDLE editor windows and lack of robust navigation has me looking to move forward.

The Contenders

I’ve tried perhaps a half-dozen different Python IDEs now, spending the most time on two of them: Geany and Atom. Both are easy to install on Linux and provide the more advanced features I want for larger projects: better navigation, cross-file code completion (and warnings), variable type and scope indication.

The look of Geany brings to mind an “IDE 1.0” layout style and theme. It’s the familiar three-pane layout that places symbols to the left, code to the right, and status along the bottom. When you run your program it launches in an interactive terminal, which I like, but you lose all IDE features at this point, which I despise. There is no code completion, and no syntax highlighting.

I have been using Atom much more than Geany and have grown to like it enough to stick with it for now. I’d call Atom the “IDE 2.0” layout. It launches with a dark theme and everything is a tab.

Atom has symbol view that isn’t shown all the time. CTRL-R brings it up and it uses a search style but you can also scroll through all symbols

Atom depends heavily on packages (plugins that anyone may write). The package management is good, and the packages I’ve tried have been superb. I’m using autocomplete-python and tabs-to-spaces, but again I come up short when it comes to running Python files. I’ve tried platformio-ide-terminal, script, and runner plugins.  The first brings up a terminal as a bottom pane but doesn’t automatically run the file in that terminal. Script also uses a bottom pane but I can’t get it to run interactively. I’m currently using runner which has an okay display but is not interactive. I’ve resorted to using a “fake” python file in my projects as a workaround for commands and tests I would normally run in the interactive shell.

Tell Us How You Python

It’s entirely possible I’ve just been using Python wrong all these years and that tinkering with your code in an interactive shell is a poor choose of development processes.

What do you prefer for your Python development? Does an interactive shell matter to you? Did you start with IDLE and move to a more mature IDE. Which IDE did you end up with and what kind of compromises did you make during that change. Let us know in the comments below.

World Create Day: Get Together and Hack on April 22nd

Venture away from your workbench and see what others have been building this year. It’s time for Hackaday World Create Day when hackers all over the world get together to work on projects.

On April 22nd, join the creative minds in your area for a few hours of build time. It’s an opportunity to inspire and be inspired by others. There’s no better way to make those leaps forward on a project than to share your work with others. This pollination of ideas is what sparks creativity, and it’s a great excuse to meet new people.

Find a meetup near you right now. Don’t see one in your area? Become a host, it’s easy and we’ll help!

What’s It Like at a World Create Day Meetup?

When the Hackaday community gets together it’s always a fun time. Each meetup on April 22nd will be unique. These are organized locally and given life by those who show up. Bring an open mind and something you’re excited about and you’ll be right at home.

We’re sending out stickers like this one, along with other swag, to meetups that sign up early. Do it now!

For instance, if I were Brian Benchoff I might bring along my 3D printed WiFi antenna and a few different WiFi devices to see if anyone wanted to do some distance measurements and signal strength characterization. I myself have been working on an art project that uses computer vision and replacement display for my exercise machine so I’ll bring one of those. After a few hours of hacking, it’s customary to go around the room and have people give a very brief explanation of their work.

World Create Day is the perfect place to put together you Hackaday Prize Team. As the ideas fly, keep in mind the power of one idea to change the world. Consider picking a challenge, brainstorming an idea, and entering it in the Hackaday Prize.

Pics or It Didn’t Happen

Don’t let the great ideas live for only one day. Make sure you tell the story of your World Create Day. Post your pictures and descriptions on social media with hashtag #WorldCreateDay during the event. Pictures, project links, and a brief summary should be added on your meetup’s Hackaday.io event page. We want to cover as many of these as possible on Hackaday, so don’t be bashful about telling everyone what people at your meetup were working on — finished project or pencil drawing, we want to hear it!

World Create Day: the Hackaday Event in Your Town

It’s official, World Create Day is on April 22nd. Get together with hackers in your area and create something! This is best way to meet all the Hackaday readers in your area, and a great excuse to carve out a few hours of your busy life to have fun working on a project.

These are really easy to organize, but we can’t do it without you. Sign up now to host a meetup in your town!

The Hackaday community around the world will meetup and spend time building together on Saturday, April 22nd. If you’re like us you have a long list of projects you want to do ‘some day’, this is the day. Pack up your current build (or grab gear to start a new one), get together with some old and new friends, and hack on your projects with each other.

It’s traditional to block out a bit of time at the end for lightning talks to show off the builds each of you has been working on. Don’t forget to take pictures and post the story of your World Create Day meetup. We enjoyed getting a great look at many of last year’s meetups this way and want to expand the builds we feature on the front page this year.

Meetup Organizers Wanted

Fill out this form to let us know you want to host a meetup.

This is the second year of World Create Day. Last year we saw meetups in 64 cities. Many of those will happen again this year, but we also need you to organize an event in your area. We’ll help you get things set up and put your event up on the big map so others in your area will plan to join in. Do it now, if we get your shipping info early we’ll send you stickers and other swag to hand out at your gathering.

Build Something that Matters

The core of World Create Day is to stop making excuses and just build something. Since you’re already getting together with other people consider forming a team to enter the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Currently we’re in the idea phase: Design Your Concept means tackling a problem and planning a build to solve it. When you get a bunch of creative people together in one place, great ideas begin to flow. Seize the moment by turning that creativity into an entry for the Hackaday Prize and see where it takes you!

Revealing Capcom’s Custom Silicon Security

Ask any security professional and they’ll tell you, when an attacker has hardware access it’s game over. You would think this easily applies to arcade games too — the very nature of placing the hardware in the wild means you’ve let all your secrets out. Capcom is the exception to this scenario. They developed their arcade boards to die with their secrets through a “suicide” system. All these decades later we’re beginning to get a clear look at the custom silicon that went into Capcom’s coin-op security.

Alas, this is a “part 1” article and like petulant children, we want all of our presents right now! But have patience, [Eduardo Cruz] over at ArcadeHacker is the storyteller you want to listen to on this topic. He is part of the team that figured out how to “de-suicide” the CP2 protections on old arcade games. We learned of that process last September when the guide was put out. [Eduardo] is now going through all the amazing things they learned while figuring out that process.

These machines — which had numerous titles like Super Street Fighter II and Marvel vs. Capcom — used battery-backed ram to store an encryption key. If someone tampered with the system the key would be lost and the code stored within undecipherable thanks to “two four-round Feistel ciphers with a 64-bit key”. The other scenario is that battery’s shelf life simply expires and the code is also lost. This was the real motivation behind the desuicide project.

An overview of the hardware shows that Capcom employed at least 11 types of custom silicon. As the board revisions became more eloquent, the number of chips dropped, but they continued to employ the trick of supplying each with battery power, hiding the actual location of the encryption key, and even the 68000 processor core itself. There is a 6-pin header that also suicides the boards; this has been a head-scratcher for those doing the reverse engineering. We assume it’s for an optional case-switch, a digital way to ensure you void the warranty for looking under the hood.

Thanks for walking us through this hardware [Eduardo], we can’t wait for the next installment in the series!